It’s old, it’s very narrow and according to some Garner Valley residents, dangerous because of its width. The bridge over Hurkey Creek on Highway 74, built in 1930, is only 23 feet wide, with bridge side rails extending just one foot on each side past the 21-foot-wide roadway.

Caltrans plans to replace the bridge sometime later this year. A public hearing on the project is scheduled for Thursday, May 31. Like the recent retooling of Garner Valley road-abutting cement culverts, Caltrans is retiring the otherwise structurally sound bridge for similar safety reasons — the bridge abutments are far too close to the flow of high-speed traffic.

As Caltrans Public Information Officer Shelly Lombardo noted, the bridge was built at a time when traffic on Highway 74 was minimal, auto speeds were much reduced, and truck sizes and use, that in 2008 accounted for 6 percent of the average daily vehicle total of 2,330, were also minimal (cited bridge statistic source National Bridge Inventory). “The bridge just does not meet current standards,” said Lombardo. “When it was built, it had a sustainable life of 40 to 50 years.”

The bridge replacement project will widen the roadway over the creek by three feet and extend shoulders to eight feet on each side resulting in two 12-foot lanes, one in each direction. That would cumulatively expand the roadway, shoulder span and bridge abutments by a total of 17 feet, from the present 23 feet to 40 feet. In addition, metal beam guardrails and four wing and retaining walls would be constructed on both sides of the highway, as well as on the bridge approaches and departures.

Caltrans will present its plans for the project, its notice of intent to adopt a mitigated negative declaration regarding environmental issues and concerns, and the initial CEQA study checklist at a public information meeting to be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, at the Idyllwild Nature Center on Highway 243. The CEQA study checklist can be viewed online at Attendees can file comments with Caltrans in support or opposition until June 18.

Lombardo anticipates, given required procedural guidelines, that construction is unlikely to start before this fall.

For more information on this project contact the Caltrans District 8 Public Affairs Office at (909) 383-4631.